St. Louis Hosts U.S. Premiere of MIRIAM MAKEBA: MAMA AFRICA THE MUSICAL in September

The North American premiere of Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical will open September 15th at the Touhill Performing Arts Center in St. Louis. The production tells the story of activist and Grammy award-winning musician Miriam Makeba, outlining her role in bringing down apartheid, her varied musical career, betrayals, failed marriages and death of her only daughter while in exile. Set in Africa, the USA and Belgium, this musical is an inspirational and universal story that will appeal to multi-generational audiences worldwide.

The production is a collaboration between The University of Missouri, St. Louis (UMSL) and the University of the Western Cape. Niyi Coker, Distinguished Professor of Theater and Cinema Arts at UMSL, serves as both the production's writer and director. A variety of semi-professionals, students and newcomers make up the extensive cast of 40 South African actors of various ethnicities.

Inspiration for this project took a complex path: beginning with Coker writing a book and musical on another African musician...a relocation from University of Alabama to UMSL...the creation of the Africa World Documentary Film Festival and subsequent partnership with South Africa...all led Coker to develop an original production on a South African figure. "All these elements coalesced in inspiring the creation and direction of this work. The fact that [Makeba] was a prominent national icon who contributed so much to their struggle for liberation and yet had no musical drama or major piece to commemorate her greatly stoked the fires of creativity within me."

Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa the Musical had its world premiere in South Africa in May, but Coker believes it is important to bring the show to St. Louis. "This production is anchored by UMSL International Studies and Programs office, along with faculty in Theatre and Cinema Arts department," says Coker. "We present this work in commemoration of the 30th anniversary celebration of the University of Missouri and University of Western Cape partnership. Though we opened it in South Africa, the hometown of Miriam Makeba, we have a responsibility to share the work with an equally vibrant and diverse city like St Louis." The production will continue its U.S. run in Columbia, MO and New York City before returning to Capetown and then on to London in 2017.

An original soundtrack for the musical is currently being recorded and will be available at the St. Louis shows.

Miriam Makeba: Mama Africa The Musical will be performed at the Anhueser Busch Theatre in the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on the UMSL campus. Shows are scheduled for September 15, 7:30pm; September 16, 7:30pm; September 17, , 2pm and 7:30pm; and September 18, 2pm. Tickets are $25 for students, $35 for general admission. For more information, visit

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